This Session is memorable for the introduction of the subject of Parliamentary Reform by Lord John Russell. His plan was to add one hundred members to the House—sixty for counties and forty for large towns. He argued that this enlargement of the representation was rendered just and politic by increasing intelligence among the people, especially the middle classes, of whom large numbers were unrepresented in Parliament. His motion was negatived, on the 29th of April, by two hundred and sixty-nine to one hundred and sixty-four, Mr. Canning having led the opposition of the Conservatives, and defended the Constitution as it stood. The motion, in fact, was premature, though in the previous Session he had procured the disfranchisement of the corrupt borough of Grampound—a victory which the Lords sought to neutralise by transferring the seat to the county of York, instead of to one of the great unrepresented cities.When these arrangements became known, the Tory party grew dreadfully exasperated. But not the Tories only—there were throngs of Whigs who had battled zealously for the same object, and with the same hope of personal benefit, and yet they were passed over, and Pulteney, Carteret, and their immediate coterie had quietly taken care of themselves, and thrown their coadjutors overboard. A meeting was appointed between Pulteney and the rest already in office, and the Duke of Argyll, Chesterfield, Cobham, Bathurst, and some others. The Prince of Wales was present, and the different claims were discussed. Argyll was satisfied by being made Master-General of the Ordnance, Colonel of His Majesty's Royal Regiment of Horse Guards, Field-Marshal and Commander-in-Chief of all the forces in South Britain. Chesterfield got nothing, professing to wait to see a more thorough change of men before he went amongst them; but Cobham was made a Field-Marshal, and restored to the command of the Grenadier Guards, but he could get nothing for his nephew, the fiery Oppositionist, Lyttelton. Lord Harrington was made an Earl and President of the Council. But what surprised the country most was that Pulteney, hitherto the head and soul of the party, should have been content to sacrifice himself for the sake of a title. He was made Earl of Bath and received a place in the Cabinet; but by this change, although he seemed to have a brilliant career before him, he forfeited the confidence of the country, which had always looked up to him as the most determined and disinterested of patriots. From this moment he sank into insignificance and contempt. Some others of the old officials remained in as well as Newcastle. Sir William Yonge and Pelham, brother of Newcastle, retained their posts, Yonge as Secretary of War, and Pelham as Paymaster of the Forces.
At two o'clock the York Town troops marched out with their drums beating, their muskets shouldered, and their colours cased, and piled their arms. The number of those who remained effective now amounted only to four thousand; the rest, making up the total number to about six thousand, were lying sick or wounded. General Lincoln, who had been so lately a prisoner of the English, was appointed to receive them, and the British prisoners had to march through two lines of the allied army, upwards of a mile in length, the Americans on the right, and the French on the left. The different feelings with which the English regarded the French and Americans was remarked. The English officers, as they passed along the enemy's lines, courteously saluted every French officer—a compliment which they withheld from every American one, even the highest. The surrender of Cornwallis's army was the determining point of the war. The news of this decisive event reached London on the 25th of November. Lord North walked about the room, exclaiming, "Oh, God! it is all over!" The king received the communication with more firmness. In Paris great was the exultation. Franklin, who was there, and who, only three days before, had written to Governor Pownall that he never expected to see "this accursed war" finished in his time, now wrote to John Adams, at the Hague:—"I congratulate you on this glorious news. The infant Hercules, in his cradle, has now strangled his second serpent;" and so delighted was he with his conceit of the serpent, that he afterwards had a medal cast embodying it.LA ROCHE-JAQUELEIN AND THE REPUBLICAN SOLDIERS. (See p. 444.)
Fortunately, Municipal Reform in Scotland did not give much trouble. It was accomplished almost without any discussion or party contention. It was based upon the provisions of the Scottish Reform Bill, which settled the whole matter by the simple rule that the Parliamentary electors of every burgh should be the municipal electors; also that the larger burghs should be divided into wards, each of which should send two representatives to the town council, chosen by the qualified electors within their respective bounds; and that the provost and bailies, corresponding to the English mayor and aldermen, should be chosen by the councillors, and invested with the powers of magistrates in the burgh. The functionaries were to be elected for three years, and then to make way for others elected in the same manner to succeed them. They were invested with the control and administration of all corporate property and patronage of every description.Opening of 1843—Assassination of Drummond—The Quarterly on the League—Scene between Peel and Cobden—Mr. Villiers's Annual Motion—Peel's Free Trade Admissions—Progress of the League Agitation—Activity of its Press—Important Accessions—Invasion of the County Constituencies—The Free Traders in Parliament—Disraeli attacks Peel—Lord John Russell's Attitude—Debate on Mr. Villiers's Motion—Mr. Goulburn's Budget—The Sugar Duties—Defeat of the Government—Peel obtains a Reconsideration of the Vote—Disraeli's Sarcasms—The Anti-League League—Supposed Decline of Cobdenism—The Session of 1845—The Budget—Breach between Peel and his Party—The Potato Disease—The Cabinet Council—Memorandum of November 6—Dissent of Peel's Colleagues—Peel's Explanation of his Motives—Lord Stanley's Expostulation—Announcement in the Times—The Edinburgh Letter—Resignation of the Ministry—Russell Fails to Form a Government—Return of Peel—Parliament meets—Debates on the Queen's Speech—Peel's general Statement—Mr. Bright's Eulogium—The Corn Bill passes the Commons and the Lords—Defeat of Sir Robert Peel—Some scattered Facts of his Administration.
The active mind, strong will, and philanthropic spirit of Mr. Stanley, now transferred from Ireland to the Colonial Secretaryship, found an important field for their exercise in the Colonial Office. He applied his energies to the abolition of negro slavery in the West Indies, and was happily more successful in that work than in his attempt to tranquillise Ireland. The time had arrived when the labours on behalf of the negro race, of Clarkson, Wilberforce, Mackintosh, Brougham, Buxton, Lushington, and William Smith were to be followed with success, by the abolition of slavery in the British West Indian colonies. The Society of Friends, as became that philanthropic body, led the van in the movement which began in 1823, when Wilberforce presented a petition from them in the House of Commons. Soon afterwards, when Mr. Buxton brought forward a resolution condemning slavery as repugnant to Christianity and to the British Constitution, Mr. Canning moved a counter-resolution as an amendment, recommending reforms in the system, which, he alleged, might be safely left to the West Indian Assemblies; and if they refused to do their duty, the Imperial Parliament might then interfere. These resolutions were carried, although any one acquainted with the history of the West Indies might have known that they would be perfectly futile. No amelioration of the system could be rationally expected from the reckless adventurers and mercenary agents by whom many West Indian plantations were managed. The infamous cruelty of which the missionary Smith had been the victim showed that, while the colonial laws allowed the most horrible atrocities, there existed among the planters a spirit of brutality which did not shrink from their perpetration. Time was when such barbarities might have escaped with impunity; when in Great Britain it was maintained in high places, and even by the legislature, that slavery was defended by an impregnable fortress, that property in human flesh was not only expedient for the good of the commonwealth, and beneficial for the negro, but also a sacred institution, founded on the authority of the Bible. But, thanks to the indefatigable labours of the friends of the negro race, such abominable dogmas had been long reprobated by public opinion, and at the period now referred to no man ventured to promulgate such heresies in England. The moral sense of the nation had condemned slavery in every form. The missionaries had, in the midst of tremendous difficulties and cruel persecutions, enlightened the West Indian slaves with regard to their rights as men and their privileges as Christians; and while they inculcated patience and meek submission even to unjust laws, they animated their crushed hearts with the hope that the blessings of liberty would soon be enjoyed by them, and that humanity and justice would speedily triumph over the ruthless tyranny under which they groaned.
The Parisians were now afforded proofs that Napoleon was once more victorious. The prisoners, banners, and cannon which he had taken were sent forward rapidly to the capital, and ostentatiously paraded through the streets. Meanwhile, the Allies were so alarmed, that the sovereigns wrote to Buonaparte, expressing their surprise at his attacks, as they had ordered their Plenipotentiaries to accept the terms offered by his ambassador, Caulaincourt. These terms had indeed been offered by Caulaincourt, Duke of Vicenza, at a Congress held at Chatillon-sur-Seine on the 5th of February, and which was still sitting; but the Allies had never, in fact, accepted them, and now, as he was again in the ascendant, Napoleon was not likely to listen to them. He therefore left the letter unanswered till he should have thoroughly defeated the Allies, and then he would dictate his reply.In Italy, on the contrary, France sustained severe losses. The Austrians, liberated from their Prussian foe by the peace of Dresden, threw strong forces into Italy, and soon made themselves masters of Milan, Guastalla, Parma, and Piacenza. On the 17th of June they gave the united French and Spaniards a heavy defeat near the last-named city, entered Genoa in September, and made preparations to pursue them into Provence.
The Ministers and the Prince Regent, indeed, fully approved of the conduct of these magistrates, and that was to be expected, for neither of these parties ever evinced much sympathy for the people, and consequently received very little regard in return. There was a disposition to rule by the high hand in both the Prince and the Cabinet, which eventually brought them into extreme odium, and warned them that very different times were approaching. On the reassembling of Parliament Lord Sidmouth made the most candid statement of the full and entire approbation of himself and his colleagues of this cruel and dastardly transaction. He said that the news of the event reached town on the Tuesday night; and that it was followed on the Wednesday by two gentlemen from Manchester, one of them a magistrate, to give the Government the most minute particulars regarding it; that a Cabinet Council was immediately summoned, at which the two Manchester gentlemen attended, and entered into the fullest details of all that had taken place; and that the Attorney-General and Solicitor-General, then present, gave it as their opinion that the proceedings were perfectly justified by the necessity of the case. The statement of all particulars was then dispatched to the Prince Regent, who was yachting off Christchurch, and, on the 19th, the Prince replied, by the hand of Sir Benjamin Bloomfield, expressing his "high approbation and commendation of the conduct of the magistrates and civil authorities at Manchester, as well as of the officers and troops, both regular and yeoman cavalry, whose firmness and effectual support of the civil power preserved the peace of the town on that most critical occasion." To most people this appeared to be giving commendation, not for preserving, but for disturbing the peace of the town; but Lord Sidmouth, having received this sanction, addressed letters, on the 21st, to the Lords-Lieutenant of Lancashire and Cheshire, the Earls of Derby and Stamford, requesting them to convey to the magistrates of the two counties, who were present at Manchester on the 16th, "the great satisfaction derived by his Royal Highness from their prompt, decisive, and efficient measures for the preservation of the public tranquillity." Hunt and his confederates were charged with high treason; but, on the circumstances being examined, they were found not to bear out this charge, and Hunt and his friends were indicted only for a treasonable conspiracy; and true bills to the extent of this mitigated charge were proved against Hunt and nine others at the summer assizes for the county of Lancaster.Parliament was prorogued on the 27th of April, for the avowed purpose of a dissolution; and in the speech by commission, Ministers stated that it was necessary the people should be appealed to as soon as possible, whilst the effect of "the late unfortunate and uncalled-for agitation was on their minds." Immediate preparations were made for a most determined contest. Money was spent on both sides most prodigally, but the new Ministers had the greater command of it—their opponents said, out of the king's privy purse. But whether that were so or not, on the system then in vogue, of Ministers in different departments drawing even millions from the Treasury long before they were legitimately wanted, they could have no lack of means of corruption; and this corruption, in bribery and in purchasing of seats, never had been carried further than on this occasion. It was calculated that it would cost Wilberforce eighteen thousand pounds to get in again, and this sum was at once subscribed by his friends. Tierney offered ten thousand pounds for two seats, and could not get them. Romilly, who was utterly averse from this corruption, was compelled to give two thousand pounds for a seat for the borough of Horsham, and then only obtained it through favour of the Duke of Norfolk. Seats, Romilly says, might have been expected to be cheap after a Parliament of only four months' duration, but quite the contrary; never had they reached such a price before. Five and six thousand pounds was a common sum given, without any stipulation as to the chance of a short Parliament. The animus which was excited in the public mind against the Catholics by the incoming Ministers, for party purposes, was terrible. The Society for the Promotion of Christian Knowledge and other religious associations took the lead in the outcry. The Catholics of England, alarmed at the violence of the sensation stirred up against them, and fearing a repetition of the Gordon riots, published an address to their fellow-countrymen, protesting their entire loyalty to the Crown and Constitution. Henry Erskine, Lord Erskine's brother, wittily said, that if Lord George Gordon were but alive, instead of being in Newgate he would be in the Cabinet. The Ministers found that they had obtained a powerful majority by these means, and when Parliament met, on the 22nd of June, they were enabled to reject an amendment to the Address by a hundred and sixty against sixty-seven in the Lords, and by three hundred and fifty against a hundred and fifty-five in the Commons. One of the very first things which the Ministers did was to reverse the mild system of the late Cabinet in Ireland, and to restore the old régime of coercion. A Bill was brought into the Commons by Sir Arthur Wellesley, now again Secretary to the Lord-Lieutenant, giving authority to the latter functionary to proclaim counties in a state of insurrection, and to prohibit any person from being out of his house between sunset and sunrise, under severe penalties. Then followed another Bill, compelling all persons to register what arms they had, and authorising, on the part of the magistracy, domiciliary visits in search of arms. Education of the people, both there and in England, was discouraged. A Bill for establishing a school in every parish in England, introduced by Whitbread, was allowed to pass the Commons, but was thrown out in the Lords. Parliament was then prorogued on the 14th of August.
In this same year, 1779, the Protestant Dissenters of Ireland were relieved by their Parliament from the operation of the Test and Corporation Acts, and it was not, therefore, very likely that the Dissenters of England would rest quietly under them much longer. These Acts were passed in the 13th of Charles II., and the 25th of the same monarch, and required that no person should be elected to any civil or military office under the Crown, including seats in Parliament or corporations, unless he had taken the sacrament according to the rites of the Church of England. On the 28th of March, 1787, Mr. Beaufoy, member for Yarmouth, moved that the House of Commons should resolve itself into a committee to consider the Test and Corporation Acts. Mr. Beaufoy represented that these Acts were a heavy grievance, not only to the Dissenters and to the members of the Established Church of Scotland, but to many members of the English Church itself, who regarded the prostitution of the most solemn ordinance of their faith to a civil test as little less than sacrilegious. In reply, it was contended that the Indemnity Acts had been passed to protect such as had omitted to take the sacrament within the time specified; but Mr. Beaufoy and his seconder, Sir Henry Houghton, who had carried the Bill relieving Dissenters from subscription to the Thirty-Nine Articles, showed that these measures were not always sufficient, and were but a clumsy substitution for the abolition of the obnoxious Acts.
But whilst some little freedom from restrictions for Dissenters was thus forced from the Church, a stout battle was going on, and continued to go on through the whole reign, for giving to the Roman Catholics the common privileges of citizens. On account of their faith they were excluded from all civil offices, including seats in Parliament. We shall see that some slight concessions of both civil and military privilege were, in the course of this contest, made to them; but to the end of this reign, and, indeed, until 1829, the full claims of the Catholics continued to be resisted. We can only cursorily note the main facts of this long-protracted struggle. In the early part of the reign a degree of relief was afforded which promised well for the cause of the Catholics; but these promises were not fulfilled. In May, 1778, Sir George Savile brought in a Bill to relieve the Catholics from the provisions of the Act of 1699 for preventing the growth of Popery. By this Act Catholic priests were not allowed to enter England, and, if found there, were at the mercy of informers; Roman Catholics were forbidden to educate their own children, or to have them educated by Papists, under penalty of perpetual imprisonment; and they were not allowed to purchase land, or hold it by descent or bequest; but the next of kin who was a Protestant might take it. Sir George's Act passed both Houses, and by it all Roman Catholics were restored to the privileges of performing divine service, if priests, and of holding land, and educating children, on taking an oath of allegiance, of abjuration of the Pretender, and rejection of the doctrine that it was lawful to murder heretics, was right to keep no faith with them, and that the Pope or any foreign prince had any temporal or civil jurisdiction within these realms. The consequence of this degree of indulgence to the Catholics was the famous Gordon Riots in London and similar ones in Edinburgh, which had the effect of frightening the Government out of further concessions. A similar Bill was passed in Ireland in 1782. The Bill of 1778, however, was confirmed and considerably extended by a Bill brought in by Mr. Mitford, afterwards Lord Redesdale, in 1791, and, after a long discussion, was passed by both Houses in June of that year. This Bill legalised Roman Catholic places of worship, provided they were registered and the doors were not locked during service; it recognised the right of Catholics to keep schools, except in Oxford and Cambridge, and provided that no Protestant children were admitted. It permitted Catholic barristers and attorneys to practise on taking the new oath; and it removed the penalties on peers for coming into the presence of the king; in fact, it left little disability upon Catholics except that of not being eligible for places in Parliament, or any other places under Government, unless they took the old oaths.详情
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